28 Jan

Kudos to Michelle Obama

After reading Gerrie’s comment yesterday I hurried to the TV to watch Oprah’s show about American’s bravest families (gotta love varying time zones!). I have to admit that I was dismayed by the first half. I do agree with her message — no, Tom Brokaw’s message — that 1% of Americans are sacrificing a lot in the name of our country and the other 99% are pretty much unaffected.

The first two families profiled are undeniably brave, and deserve our respect, but I feel like dead and wounded soldiers are the easy ones to showcase. They make the best TV. Their suffering is graphic and obvious. I felt like Oprah took the simple way out. I was admittedly a bit pissed — and I do hate myself for begrudging these families who are dealing with so much loss. It’s part of the tremendous guilt I feel for being as lucky as I am.

But then came the second half of the show and I could breath a little. Michelle Obama “gets it!” Though thousands have died, and thousands more return injured, the vast majority of our fighting forces make it home from war without obvious scars. Only to deploy again. This is going to sound harsh, and maybe that’s the unfortunate result of being a military wife for 16 years, or maybe I’m just insensitive (again, guilt), but the families of the dead and seriously wounded get to stop and deal with that reality.

The vast majority of families who still serve actively don’t get to stop. They must continue to live with the constant uncertainty of the next deployment and the next move. They need to find that emergency contact to put on the kids’ school paperwork though they’re new in town; they run households alone that were intended to be run by two; they are hundreds or thousands of miles away from friends and family; they’re forced by necessity to depend on people with whom the only thing they have in common is that they are all in the same situation; they’re lonely but can’t date like “real” singles; they have to learn their way around unfamiliar places; and just as soon as they get it worked out they have to move and start over again; and they worry about their soldiers.

I believe the families we need to open our eyes to are the ones who look for all intents and purposes, just like us. We assume they are fine, but underneath, there is a lot more going on, and will continue to go on as long as their service member is in the armed services. It’s these families we need to try to recognize. Kudos to Mrs. Obama for looking past the dramatic and finding courage in the everyday.

As for what I expect the civilians of our country to do, I don’t know. An all volunteer fighting force has many advantages, but perhaps we need to consider requiring all citizens to serve in one way or another — be it military, Peace Corps, or teaching our children. How’s that for a Sputnik moment? Every American serves their country for a minimum of two years. Then perhaps our leaders would do more than bicker at their partisan differences.

And war is freakin’ expensive. It’s not just bullets and fancy airplanes. It’s the fuel trucked thousand of miles to power the war machine. It’s the extra trucks using more fuel that make up the convoy to make sure the fuel gets to it’s destination. It’s the food brought in and the barracks built. It’s the cost of sending families overseas with their service members and all the accompanying schools, stores, hospitals, and their staffs to make these families comfortable. It’s the contractors hired at much more cost to fill in the jobs for which there are not enough military members to do. It’s all the support staff everywhere. It goes on and on. Civilian Americans could do their part by giving up a little of their hard earned cash to pay towards those who are giving up their hard earned lives. How about a war tax. Sure, we could cut our national deficit by cutting defense spending (and yes, there is fat to be cut), but as long as we are supporting war (which we are as long as we elect a Congress who chooses to support war) then why ask our service members to do more with less while we sit at home unaffected? How about a war tax to offset the enormous cost? Yes, that would mean a rise in taxes, but I’m sure Americans would love the feeling of repealing them once we’re out of Iraq and Afghanistan and could consider cutting the defense budget back to Clinton era-ish levels.

I suppose that’s what we could do. In the mean time, I do appreciate everyone who thanks my husband for his service. And I appreciate Michelle Obama’s commitment to military families and support her efforts.

13 thoughts on “Kudos to Michelle Obama

  1. I absolutely agree with you. No one in my family is currently in the military but there has to be some way to share the burden. I lived in Germany for two years while my husband worked with military teens through the chapels and I saw (albiet second hand) how difficult it is to have your soldier deployed multiple times and not know when or if it will happen again. A manditory 2 year service in some capacity sounds great to me. Not everyone is meant to be in the military, but certainly there are many other ways to serve. To me it is like everyone in the family pitching in to make the family successful, we all do the work, we all reap the benefits.

  2. Ah, Kristin, you are absolutely on the mark in almost every area, especially the everyday sacrifices of active military families (throw a dual active service couple with kids in there and you’ve really got some challenges!) And your assessment of the cost of war are very accurate as well (I am a retired logistics officer). And I think your idea of a war tax is credible, though we know Congress’s bad habit of “borrowing” from specific programs to fund others, so no guarantees that the money would ever actually be used there, and DoD would still get its fiscal throat slashed (at least while there is a Democratic majority). And I love the idea of requiring everyone to serve at least two years in the service of their country. What I don’t agree with is making yet another government program, like Americorps, to “hire” these volunteers, because where will THAT funding come from? I’m not about making the government any bigger, but if there was a way to broaden job opportunities for nongovernmental organizations, that could help. Of course, then the requirement to serve couldn’t be set in stone (by law). Maybe we just need to reinstitute the draft (and include FEMALES 18 and older to register for selective service–why that hasn’t happened yet amazes me). At least then the rest of the country might get a clue on those everyday sacrifices military members and their families face.

  3. Well said. If those of us without active military could live in your and your peer’s shoes for 2 months, things would change. I grew up during the Korean and Vietnam wars and I remember the suffering of friends and relatives. Yes, it is heart wrenching when human life is lost, but it is also heart wrenching to watch the plane leave with Mom/Dad on board, or leaving the friends you finally made only to have to do it over again. I agree with Karoda and Natalya. If you don’t feel comfortable sending it to Michelle Obama, perhaps your local representatives? Whatever you choose, know that we are here if you ever want to kick the dog. Hugs.

  4. very nicely written Kristin. Another aspect of military life is to get to see friends you make move away as orders change, and hoping the neighbors that move in their place are just as awesome, praying that your kids will get new friends to play with to help ease the pain of the friend moving away. You make sure to keep the timeline of those neighbors” orders in mind (especially if you live in military housing) always so you know if you have to face them moving and your child loosing a good friend.
    Also the other part is the heart wrenching feeling you get when you have to tell the kids that daddy or mommy have to go on “another trip for work” and them not really understanding – it is not of the parent’s choice – what I am going through right now with Max.

  5. K- you are amazing: as a mom, an artist, a military spouse, a friend, and an intelligent well-spoken woman! Although I don’t talk to you every day, I am thankful on a daily basis for the sacrifice your entire family makes in service to our country. I do wish that you lived in my neighborhood so that I could help you more with daily life. I love you and miss you!

  6. As a youngster, we purchased “Savings Bond Stamps”. They were stamps for purchase for $.10 or $.25 (two different colors, kept in two different books) that purchased. As most know, these type bonds started during the previous wars (I & II) to fund the war and were “War Bond Stamps”. I seriously don’t understand why they can’t be utilized again. Sure there would be those who would choose to not buy and therefore not support. But I think it would be an invaluable tool for our children to see what their nickels or quarters can do for their country and those who fight for our freedom.

    Thanks for all everyone does in support of our military families – whether you support the war or not, the families are behind our soldiers 110%.

  7. I also feel like the majority of the civilian population (of which I am one) can’t quite understand the long term non-physical effects on all involved…from post-traumatic stress syndrome (my dad is just dealing with this now after his stint in WWII), to the here-again-gone-again in addition to those who are physically handicapped. The price our soldiers, their families, and our country is going to pay in the future is going to be large too, and quite frankly I’m embarrassed that we don’t seem to be giving our military families (past and present) the support and care that they need to deal with all of this RIGHT NOW as well as down the road.

    The mental and emotional toll is HUGE and I just wish that this would come to the fore. Heck, I can relate just by the PITA of having my husband here for 3 weeks, then gone for one every month…and I know you multiply that by a year.

    Your family IS amazing. Many hugs to you all. Lisa

  8. I agree with you and I wouldn’t feel guilty about speaking up. You’re not belittling the tragedies or losses of the other families. You’re just pointing out the long term suffering that all the military families deal with.

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